One hundred blogs.
One hundred bursts of energy, comments on world affairs and critiques on everyday communication.
It’s taught us a lot.
Whether you’re blogging now or plan to start, here are five things we’ve learned that will help you too.
Until recently, I misunderstood search engine optimisation (SEO).
I believed that for a headline to be really effective, Google and Yahoo need to see ‘media training’ to deem the site to be of high quality and relevance.
First, though, they need to see people visiting that site – so we had to engage our core readership with a headline that stood out.
The average person spends more than two hours per day reading emails.
So we had to be different.
Here are the titles of the most viewed blogs this year:
There’s a place for SEO in the URL, the description and the body – but until you hit hundreds of thousands of readers, it’s best kept out of the title.
4.55pm on a Wednesday, specifically.
That’s if you’re only interested in clicks-through, mind you.
But if you really want people to spend more than four minutes reading it, then take action, you’re better sending it out way in advance of 5pm.
Knowing our audience is critical to our achievement of our blogging goals.
We consider the who, when, how, what, and why, often described as four bums on a rugby post.
We’ve increased our readership by 300% in two years, and to retain those readers, they need to have the time and inclination to read them.
So it’s worth considering time and day.
Interestingly, the worst time to send a blog out (for our audience) is 7:15pm.
And I can tell you that 5pm-7pm on a Friday is the least fun time to write one.
So schedule for the next day, or start with a specific deadline in mind.
In August 2015, we wrote a blog about Harry Clarke, the driver of the fatefully Glasgow bin lorry, which crashed nine months earlier, killing 6 people.
We discussed the need to say sorry, using a technique called Regret, Reason, Remedy.
That drew some criticism online, as people expressed their distaste for a formulaic apology.
Others considered it too soon.
If your blogs are attracting that attention, that’s a great thing.
Every negative or constructive comment is outweighed by the positive ones.
And for every public comment, we receive a number of private ones too, thanking us for the insight.
Being bold in the subject matter helps to create debate and shape our relationship with our readers.
It’s the reason we started blogging in the first place – and so we continue to welcome debate, comment and disagreement.
You just need to be ready to react, thanking people for the contribution and remaining relentlessly positive in the response.
I believe every blog must be both engaging and actionable.
If you achieve both, that reader will be compelled into action.
While our early blogs were engaging, I believe they lacked the ability to put them into action straight away.
So now, as a rule of thumb, every email and landing page we send with the blog will include an actionable take-away in the first few lines.
That’s related closely to the ‘what’s in it for you’.
Since we’ve focused clearly on that, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in reading rates – as much as 30%.
It’s now the first thing I consider when writing a blog.
“What does the audience want to be able to do as a result?”
If the answer to that is “control nerves during a presentation”, that will be addressed in the opening paragraph.
It’s simple journalism – and it’s something we’ve urged people to do in their presentations and media interviews for 28 years.
So now we’re taking our own advice.
When we run presentation skills courses for sales and marketing professionals, we often ask them to change their presentation content and style drastically.
When they present successfully next time with new information, style and structure, they’re often surprised that they were unable to come up with the idea themselves.
Unable to see the wood for the trees.
It’s the same reason we need to ask for outside help, too.
A big thanks to Dave Sawyer or Zude PR, who took me back to the drawing board in 2015 and helped me to see what a blog really should look like.
A great teacher will tell you how to improve, but a great coach will show you.
And Dave’s certainly done that over the years, routinely suggesting new ideas and changes.
In fact, he suggested this very post.
Start by considering what you want to achieve.
For us, it’s simple.
We want to be at the forefront of our audience’s mind when they’re ready to improve themselves or their team.
So we’ll give our advice away regularly, for free, in a structured, actionable way.
And we’ve just had our best training year – so we’re delighted to say it’s working well.
And so can yours – if you can really grasp the ‘what’s in it for me’, engage and compel your readership into action.
Andrew McFarlan is Managing Director of Glasgow and Edinburgh media training and presentation skills firm, Pink Elephant Communications.
His full profile can be found here.
Some media trainers knock you down…and leave you down. Our media coaches show you how to deal with each knock…and still win through. So you have the presentation skills to perform – with confidence.